Gospel Matthew 25: 31-46
Let us begin by quoting some of the beliefs we regularly profess in the Nicene Creed; “the Only Begotten Son of God, … begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, … by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man … He suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day, … He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”
Only one man, Jesus, can claim all of the statements above, no one else who has ever walked upon this earth can claim even one of them.
The last Sunday of the Church year is commonly known as Christ the King. Next Sunday we begin the new Church Year with the First Sunday of Advent. This last Sunday of the Church year is one on which we sum up all that we celebrated in the past year, under the title of “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” As we come to the end of the Church Year it is similar to our coming to the end of the calendar year when we take stock of our lives and make “new year’s” resolutions.
The Gospel is a story of judgment that reflects the line we profess in the Creed, “He will come to judge the living and the dead.” How am I preparing for judgment? Have I grown in my faith and how have I live my faith during this past church year? What Jesus presents as the criteria for eternal life is how we recognize and care for him. He identifies himself with those in need. The list he gives is the basis for what we know as the Corporal Works of Mercy; feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prisons. To this the church adds, to shelter the homeless and bury the dead. The failure to practice these works of mercy is a failure on our part to care for Jesus himself. Jesus is telling us that the attitude we have and our actions or lack of actions toward the hungry, thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the sick, the prisoners, is the attitude and action or lack of action toward Jesus Himself.
If you feel a little unsettled because you are lacking in attitude or deed in helping the various needs as identified above, then this is the time of year to rethink those attitudes and to work at seeing Jesus more and more in those in need. Maybe this is the “new (church year) resolution” that we should make, to grow more aware of Jesus in the various needs of the people around us. We can begin Advent next Sunday not only with hearts generous in donating to the numerous charities that make appeals to us, but also in working to change the way that might not be to accepting and loving, and might even be judgmental toward those who are in need.
Finally, I believe that when Jesus speaks of judgment he does not do so to frighten us away from him, nor to beat ourselves up because of our failings. Jesus desires that we be with him in the Father’s house, and his words are a call for us to change for the better. They are words that challenge us to leave behind our faults, and then to move ahead with new zeal to follow more faithfully Christ our King.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.